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15 July, 2021

The Rondo goes revolutionary

WIDELY regarded as the cultural capital of Russia, St Petersburg was the focus for the arts before the Russian Revolution.

By Peter McCullagh

Renamed Petrograd and a few years later Leningrad, the passion, conflict and political upheaval of the time forms the basis for the latest production at the Rondo Theatre.

Petrograd Express by Ken Cotterill, is the newest Cairns Little Theatre Fringe Production.

Opening night will also herald the first ever stage production of this locally written play.

Prolific Cairns playwright, Ken Cotterill has spent the past two years writing and scripting this intriguing storyline. Cotterill read Russian Studies and Modern History at University of Queensland developing a strong fascination with Russia and the revolution era.

“I’m not a fan of Lenin but could see some real drama in his story. The fascination for me is Lenin’s wife Nadya.

“She really was something special. When young she was so loyal to Lenin, and he could not do without her. Even though he continued to have mistresses.

“A true revolutionary in her own right, she served as a calming influence on Lenin and without her he was lost.

“She was a powerful woman in a man’s world, destined to be behind the scenes, but a powerful character nonetheless.

“Nayda needed a voice, and my play gives a voice to this essential character in the political theatre surrounding the revolution,” Cotterill said.

Cotterill completed the manuscript in February this year and has not attended any readings or rehearsals for this production.

“I have never heard of the play spoken by any actors. Only voices in my head, so it should be a surprise on opening night.”

Petrograd Express is directed by John Hughes. Cairns audiences would remember Hughes productions of  Amadeus and A Man for all Seasons, along with five other Ken Cotterill scripts.

“I wanted to tackle and bring to life Petrograd Express, because of a coincidence of interest. I love and adore Russian culture, music and politics.

“It really is a powerful script and I’m looking forward to bringing it life.”

“We are fortunate to have Peter Merrill playing Lenin. Cairns audiences would best remember how he bought Henry VIII to life in A Man for All Seasons, he truly is the best actor in Cairns.”

Petrograd Express by Ken Cotterill is best described as a tale of intrigue, love and deception. The story recounts the return from exile in Switzerland of Russian revolutionary Lenin.

It will be a perilous journey to Russia, having to cross Germany to return home to lead the revolution, but more than just the perils associated with war and the Germans, Lenin will need to battle the perils of his wife and mistress as well as the implications of using the Germans to return to their homeland.  They could be arrested upon their return as traitors.

Petrograd Express by Ken Cotterill opens Thursday July 22 for three nights only. 

Tickets are available from 

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